Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon is the band of tissue that connects calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone.
Achilles tendonitis most commonly occurs in runners who suddenly increase the intensity of their runs, but it also commonly affects middle-aged individuals who play sports once or twice a week.
Fortunately, most cases of Achilles tendonitis can be treated at home following your doctor’s advice. However, it’s important to know how to provide adequate self-care as Achilles tendonitis can lead to a tendon rupture that could require surgery.
Achilles Tendinitis Symptoms
The main symptom of Achilles tendonitis is pain in the back of the leg or above the heel. This pain typically begins as a mild ache and occurs after running or participating in sporting activities. Achilles tendonitis may also cause stiffness and tenderness in the back of the legs, especially in the morning.
Achilles Tendinitis Causes
Intense, repetitive strain on the Achilles tendon can cause Achilles tendonitis. The Achilles tendon weakens with age, which means that as people get older they are more susceptible to injury. This is especially true for people who participate in sports but only do so once or twice a week.
Types of Achilles Tendinitis
There are two main types of Achilles tendonitis: Non-insertional Achilles Tendonitis and Insertional Achilles Tendonitis.
Non-insertional Achilles Tendinitis: This type of tendonitis usually affects active, young adults. Small tears in the middle fibers of the tendon break down and cause pain and swelling.
Insertional Achilles Tendonitis: This occurs in the spot where the tendon meets the heel bone. Bone spurs often form with this type which causes pain, swelling, and tenderness.
Achilles Tendinitis Risk Factors
There are a number of factors that increase your risk of Achilles tendonitis. These include:
- Gender: Achilles tendinitis occurs more often in men than in women.
- Age: Achilles tendinitis is more common as you get older.
- Physical issues: Flat feet with little to no arch put more strain on the Achilles tendon which can cause Achilles tendonitis.
- Weight: Carrying extra weight increases tendon strain.
- Medications: Certain medications including some antibiotics have been associated with Achilles tendonitis.
- Training conditions: Certain training conditions can increase your risk: Running in old, worn-out shoes can place more strain on the tendon as well as working out in cold weather.
How Is Achilles Tendinitis Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects Achilles tendonitis, he or she will perform a physical exam. During the exam, they will gently press on the area to determine the location of your pain. They’ll also check for swelling and assess your alignment, flexibility, and range of motion.
X-ray, MRI, and ultrasound may be used to evaluate bone and soft tissue.
Achilles Tendinitis Treatment
Most cases of Achilles tendonitis can be treated at home with R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). If your symptoms are persistent or get worse, your doctor may suggest other treatments.
Over-the-counter medications can help reduce the pain associated with Achilles tendonitis. Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatories.
Your doctor might suggest physical therapy which includes stretching and strengthening exercises to promote healing. They may also prescribe an orthotic device such as shoe inserts or shoe wedges to slightly elevate your heel to relieve strain on the Achilles tendon.
If conservative treatments don’t work or if you experience a tear or rupture, the doctor will likely suggest surgery.
Achilles Tendinitis Complications
The most common complication of Achilles tendonitis is that it can weaken the tendon. This makes the tendon more vulnerable to a tear or rupture. This is a painful injury that typically requires surgery.
Achilles Tendinitis Prevention
Sometimes Achilles tendonitis is unavoidable, however, you can take measures to reduce your risk.
Gradually increase your activity level
If you’re just starting an exercise regimen, start slowly and work your way up rather than jumping into an intense training schedule.
Take time to stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendons in the morning as well as before and after exercise. This helps to maintain flexibility and can prevent an Achilles injury.
Work your calf muscles
Strong calf muscles help to protect the Achilles tendon.
Choose the right shoes
When it comes to preventing Achilles tendonitis, choosing the right shoes is key. Your shoes should provide adequate cushioning for your heels. They should also have firm arch support, which can help reduce the tension on the Achilles tendon. Never work out or run in shoes that are worn out.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you’ve been feeling pain or discomfort, let us help you get back to doing the things you love.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.